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As a librarian, Gillian loves to discover new books and share recommendations ...

Gillian Colton’s top 10 reads of 2020

Gillian Colton works as a librarian at Dublin City Libraries. Her favourite parts of being a librarian are unboxing new books, learning something new at library events and exchanging book recommendations with the well-read Dublin City Libraries regulars.

Gillian's top 10 reads of 2020


Night Boat to Tangier by Kevin Barry.

In his latest novel, Barry joyrides through the mad, the bad and the crazy of the Irish underbelly, as only he can. Maurice and Charlie wait it out and reminisce in the vividly rendered port of Algeciras. The wild anecdotes, humour, cool dialogue and even cooler clothes are counterbalanced with the characters’ loneliness and loss. The audiobook, narrated by the author comes highly recommended.

Thursday Morning Murder Club by Richard Osman.

Humour, suspense, and magnetic characterisation make this is the ideal book to escape into in 2020. You will love spending time with Joyce, Elizabeth, Ibrahim and Roy a bunch of plucky pensioners with a penchant for solving crime and adventure.

Leonard and Hungry Paul by Ronán Hession.

A beautiful celebration of family, friendship and a life quietly lived. You will laugh, smile and cheer your way through this book.

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel.

Exquisite detail and the sympathetic characterisation draw you right into the first of Mantel’s excellent trilogy. You will delight in getting to know the seemingly indomitable Thomas Cromwell and delving beneath the headlines of one of the most fascinating times in English history. Bring up the Bodies is equally compelling and I cannot wait to get my hands on The Mirror and the Light.

Normal People by Sally Rooney.

Research reveals the prefrontal cortex, the part of our brain involved in rational decision-making, does not full develop until around 25. Rooney’s voyeuristic depiction of Connell and Marianne, their electric chemistry and their heart-breaking fallibility, illustrates this phenomenon with clarity and depth. We ache as watch insecurity, inexplicable decisions and misunderstandings drive them apart, time, and time again. However, ultimately, it is their impulsive passion, untouched by the cold splash of rationality, which has drawn them to each other and us to them. I loved vicariously reliving the emotional rollercoaster of these years.

The Art of the Glimpse.

Edited by the wonderful Sinéad Gleeson, The Art of the Glimpse a new look at the Irish short story featuring writing by well-recognised, new and diverse voices. Short stories are the perfect form to turn to if you are struggling with your concentration this year, as many readers report to be – even bibliophile Nigella Lawson. Many of us are also missing conversation with friends over coffee. Well, in step short stories… they are the perfect companion for your pandemic coffee breaks, entertaining, quirky but thought provoking – like your most interesting friends. You will be pondering over their meaning for the rest of the day.

The Maddam Trilogy by Margaret Atwood.

Why, you might ask, would I want to escape into a world turned to ruin by a pandemic? Unlike her other feted dystopian novel, veins of humour and playfulness, cut through the darkness of the Maddadam Trilogy. These razor sharp cautionary series is full of interesting characters who illustrate the best and worst of humanity. There is plenty of excitement, suspense and imagination. So go on satisfy your schadenfreude. The audiobooks available on Borrowbox really capture the drama of the trilogy.

The Burgess Boys
by Elizabeth Strout.

I would happily suggest anything by this author but I’m recommending this tale of two very different brothers, as you may already have read the excellent Olive Kitteridge or her more recent novels. Strout has a way of getting to the heart of families, relationships and class in a natural and unaffected style. This coupled with an uncanny ability to uncover the secrets of hearts and minds set her apart as a master of the realist novel. She is also a wonderful storyteller.

Circe by Madeleine Miller.

Beautifully written reimagining of the witch Circe, who appears briefly in The Odyssey. Miller takes the scant details and fills out her story, giving her power and agency. An outsider in her early life, Miller sympathetically depicts Circe as a survivor who bridges the worlds of humans and gods.

Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo.

Entertaining, fast paced read featuring the struggles and success of a cast of strong black, British women. Lots of diverse, interesting stories and characters make this a compelling as well as important read.

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